Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place; and there was a large crowd of His disciples, and a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all. (Luke 6:17-19 NASB)
The “Sermon on the Plain” roughly corresponds to the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5 through 7, but only roughly. The parallel isn’t all that new to me, but this setting for Jesus speaking to His disciples is. Jesus speaks to His disciples, like in Matthew. But here Jesus has just selected the Twelve, and He is working with people in a very dynamic way. It’s as if to say and show what it means to be designated an apostle.
I’m fairly certain that being around Jesus was a powerful and dynamic experience. So, Luke’s description here means that while Jesus is giving the brand new apostles their new job descriptions (well, actually all His disciples), this dynamic pouring out of power is going on. It seems that it can be felt coming off of Him. So, as an apostle, these are the things that should be happening? Well, if so, what sort of things are these?
There Should Be a “Coming to the People”
Following the selection, Jesus comes down to to find a great crowd of disciples and people from all over. It’s possible that Luke includes the regions of Tyre and Sidon as examples showing Gentile participation in following Jesus early in His ministry, but not certain. It seems more clear that people “came from all over” to be healed and see this new Teacher.
Jesus doesn’t move away from this crowd, He engages with them. They are numerous, and His power to heal them emanates from Him, as if to accommodate the additional numbers. The draining work isn’t something He shies away from, but wades directly into. His healing isn’t just about physical infirmities, but spiritual as well; He is Physician and Therapist.
In ministry, we criticize those to whom we minister when they make the excuse, “yeah, but that was Jesus, and I’m not God.” We hear it when we exhort people to follow Jesus’ pattern. And yet, when we pull back from ministry, and read such passages as these, we claim, “well, we’re not God.” We do the same thing. I am particularly aware of my introversion, and I am very aware that I avoid crowds. But the truth I have to embrace is that I’m not called to give into such a limitation, but engage in spite of it. It’s safe. Jesus got away regularly, possibly daily, to pray in a quiet place. I’ll survive if I follow His pattern.
There Should Be An Attraction
Peter says that we should always be ready to give a supporting argument for our “hope”. But that implies that we are being challenged on why we have hope. The assumption in the letters of the first apostles is that association with Jesus would get people’s attention. They are supposed to be asking us about why we’re different. Hopefully the difference they see is our hope.
People may not come from all over the world to hear us, but there should be a quality about us that attracts them, even if it also repels them. In a sense, we should be piquing the curiosity of those around us. The problem is that I get so focused on myself, my perspective, my problems, and my circumstances, I don’t look very different from those around me. But I should. My focus and my demeanor should be different. The challenge is not to give in to the temptation to fake it. The difference should be visible “Fruit of the Spirit”.
There Should Be Service
People came to Jesus to hear Him and be healed, both physically and spiritually. That means that possessed or oppressed people were coming to Jesus against the spiritual influence in their lives. That is pretty amazing if you think about it. They fought to get there. How often do we do that? How often are we simply too tired of the struggle?
But more than the work of the people to get there is the work of Jesus to minister to them. He serves them without requiring them to change or meet a standard or be something or join something. Jesus is ministering so powerfully, just being around Him drives off evil spirits and heals diseases.
What sort of “bench marks” do we put in place before we will minister. We use good reasons, like “we can’t serve everyone” or “we don’t have endless resources”, or others. Jesus is caring for His own, His disciples are there in a great crowd. But He also ministers without limit to those others from Judea and Phoenicia. Actually, there is at least one limit. He is ministering to those around Him. And He is ministering while He’s there. He doesn’t open a booth and just remain there healing and casting out demons.
The prospect of this really terrifies me, but that’s because I consider my resources, and I don’t have them. The only way this is possible, this pouring out of myself into others, is when I make my connection to my Master my priority. What if that, prayer and Bible study and worship, were my priorities? If my connection to Jesus and His Spirit were more important to me than my family, my reputation, and myself then I’d have a lot more to pour into others.
There Should Be Teaching
It’s within this context of the coming to others, the attraction, and the service that Jesus teaches on the plain. He expounds these blessings, woes, and behaviors that demonstrate a radically different underlying perspective. It’s the context that drives this teaching home. I have neglected the context in Luke, and puzzled over the teaching. But when I bring both together, I find something.
The context teaches me that I cannot minister without maintaining my dependence upon my Master. Well, the same is true for the things Jesus teaches. These things aren’t true without a complete dependence upon my Master. And knowing that, acting on that, living that truth out, I become a lesson.
There should be something different about me that people notice and want to know more about. I should be teaching out of the overflow of my connection to Jesus and my total dependence upon His Spirit. There should be teaching because people who come for the service should also be told why it’s happening. Luke points out that people came to hear Jesus, not just to be healed. There should be teaching. There should be discipleship.
Okay, so not a radical new view. It’s not controversial or edgy. Lots of teachers and minister are writing about this too. But I need it, I need to hear it. I need to look into the “mirror” of Scripture, and see what I need to change, where I need to adjust. It needs to pass through my brain and displace a lot of junk I’ve held on to for too long.
Anyway, that’s my view through this knothole. Anyone have another view they want to share?